Visual Storytelling / New Street Agenda

The Reception © Knut Skjærven

The Reception © Knut Skjærven

I am sure that we all have our favourites photographs.

I have many.  THE RECEPTION (next) is one of them. It is a low-key, low noise picture that I took in the gallery area of Berlin a couple of years ago. At first I did not think much of it since it is shot around midnight and it was almost too dark to shoot anything.

I lifted the dark areas and lowered the bright areas in LR and started looking at I properly. It seemed to work after all. Today I enjoy it. Not because of it technical qualities, but because it is a good example of what I call a storytelling photograph.

Let me mentioned that visual storytelling in New Street Agenda fall in one of two categories. You have pictures where the story largely is told within the photograph.   And you have pictures where the story is told, if not mainly, but to a large extent outside the photograph.

Elsewhere we call this for closed and open images. Closed or open stories.

Photographs will often be a combination the two.

THE RECEPTION is an example of a closed image. The story is told within the image. You don’t need much extra  information to see what it is all about.  It is all there.

The story is that you have a guy literally telling a story. Sitting with glass in hand. The two people surrounding him are obviously enjoying his story since they pay full and smiling attention. You can follow their eye directions and find that they cross in front of his face.

There are two minor and supporting stories. One story is going on in the group of people at the back of the room. Another is the relation that has been established by the two dogs and the photographer. Here the story is opening up towards something that partly going on outside the frame: the photographer taking the picture.

You have a single picture. Stories are three in one. Supporting and complementing each other.

Question: Are all street photographs storytelling pictures? Either open or closed or combined?

I think not. In this workbook most of them are. For the simple reason is that storytelling belongs to the very idea of street photography.

© Knut Skjærven

The Workbook for New Street Agenda is in the making and in good progress. Click the image to go there.  Or click here.

 

Advertisements

After Midnight

After Midnight © Knut Skjærven

After Midnight © Knut Skjærven

Dining Out

Dining Out © Knut Skjærven

Dining Out © Knut Skjærven

Just to celebrate the revival of the mother of all blogs in the barebones family, here is a photo shot in 2012. Summer is already there and so it outdoor dining.

Why do I say this? Because this blog was originally called Barebones Communication and it brought all my interested in street photography with it. I have not really posted to it since 2010. Even so, it takes more visits than any other blog that I have.

Click the image to see where it takes you.  Could well be an outdoor dinner in Berlin this summer. With good company to go with it.

Good day to all.

© Knut Skjærven

Photograph’s Three Objects

Screenshot from Phenomenology and Photography.

There is a new and interesting post on Phenomenoloy And Photography. Please click the link to go there.  Or click the image.

Cartier-Bresson, Burri, Sander and …

Brass Behavior. © Knut Skjærven.

A couple of years back I started publishing a photograph every time I loaded a new post to barebones communication. Eventually, I also started getting more serious about photography not only shooting left and right, upstairs and downstairs. Family and cute dogs.

This summer I started a proper photographic project called Berlin Black and White. Today that project holds 212 pictures from Berlin. There are more photographs to come. An exhibition and a book is also in the pipeline.

I couple of weeks ago I was approached by Frieder Zimmerman and Bernd Korte. They operate a German photosite, and they do their own publishing. “Are you interested in showing some of your pictures at our site?” Frieder asked me. I said “yes, selbstverständlich.” Now we are up running with 27 of the 212 pictures from Berlin Black and White.

Please visit the site at F11 photography. Click Expo 1 to get to the portfolio. The virtual exhibition will run from October 1, 2010, plus two months.

If is not everyday, by the way, I get mentioning in the same text as celebrities like Henri Cartier-Bresson, René Burri and August Sander. I don’t know how it is with you? I am honoured :-).

I thought I would let you know.

Here is the newsletter from 30 September 2010 (nr. 24):

Liebe Freunde unserer Website F11 photography,

Straßenfotografie ist die Kunst zur rechten Zeit am rechten Ort zu sein. Als distanzierter Beobachter doch nah genug zu sein, um mit Bildern Geschichten zu erzählen oder sogar selbst Teil der Geschichte zu werden. Straßenfotografie ist nicht die Jagd nach Schnappschüssen mit einem Teleobjektiv, sondern das Erfassen und Darstellen von Situationen. Große Meister haben diese Form der Fotografie zur Kunst erhoben. Henri Cartier-Bresson, René Burri, in gewissem Maß auch August Sander, sind berühmte Fotografen, die in diesem Zusammenhang immer wieder genannt und gezeigt werden. Viel Geld müsste man ausgeben, wenn man eines Ihrer Originale kaufen wollte.

Auf der Suche nach neuen Talenten haben wir Ihnen im Juni 2008 an dieser Stelle den Amerikaner, Phil DeVries, mit seinen eindrucksvollen Bildern aus New Orleans vorgestellt. Heute freuen wir uns besonders, Knut Skjaerven, als Norweger in Kopenhagen lebend, zu präsentieren.

Knut schreibt über sich selbst: “Ich habe Phenomenology und visual arts studiert. Ernsthaft zu fotografieren habe ich erst vor wenigen Jahren begonnen. Und damit meine ich, bei einem Thema zu bleiben, einen Stil zu entwickeln, der Wiedererkennbarkeit ermöglicht.

“Berlin Black and White” ist eigentlich mein erster Versuch, ein wichtiges fotografisches Projekt umzusetzen. Dabei macht es diese Stadt mit seiner Offenheit, seiner Multikultur einfach, fotografische Vorstellungen umzusetzen.”

Wir freuen uns, einige Bilder von Knut Skaerven zeigen zu dürfen und wünschen Ihnen genügend Ruhe und Muße beim Anschauen auf F11 photography . Klicken Sie danach bitte auf Expo 1.

Wenn Sie mehr über die Arbeit von Knut Skjaerven erfahren wollen, schauen Sie mal in seinen Blog: Berlin Black and White .

Ihr F11 photography – Team

Frieder Zimmermann und Bernd Korte

Dear friends of our website F11 photography!

Street photography is the ability to be on the spot on time and though being a distant observer to be close enough to tell stories with pictures or even becoming a part of the story oneself. This does not mean taking snapshots with a tele lens, but realizing and presenting specific moments. Works of famous photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, René Burri and August Sander have always been quoted and shown in this context. We would have to afford quite a bit to buy one of their originals.

Looking for new talents F11 has already presented the American Phil DeVries with his impressive New Orleans street-pictures in 2008. Today we are very glad to introduce to you Knut Skjaerven, a Norwegian, living in Copenhagen.

He says about himself: “I have studied phenomenology and visual arts and have become a serious photographer for a few years only. For me this means to stick to a theme, to develop a personal style of recognition for others.

“Berlin Black and White” actually is my first attempt to realize such a project. Berlin with its cosmopolitan and multicultural character is an easy and thrilling offer to realize my photographic ideas.”

We are looking forward to show some of Knut Skjaerven’s photos and do hope you’ll be able to watch them with leisure on F11 photography, clicking Expo 1.

In case you ‘d like to get more information about his work you should call up his Blog

Berlin Black and White”.

Your F11 photography team

Bernd Korte and Frieder Zimmermann

Studium and Punctum in Camera Lucida.

Dirty Dancing. Copyright 2010: Knut Skjærven.

I needed to re-read Roland Barthes‘ Camera Lucida from 1980.  I use an English translation in a print from 2000. The numbers you find in brackets refer to pages in that version of the book.

There were certain things that I needed to check up on. What does that book actually say about studium and punctum in photography? What was Barthes’ original ideas?

In handling these issues this is the first regular post on phenomenology and photography, this blog. There will be more of such notes. I label (and tag) these posts “working notes” since that is exactly what they are. They are private notes, that I have chosen to make public so they might be of use to others as well. Very slightly adapted.

The notes will all be new, and presented here as I make them.

The specific issues I wanted to investigate were if studiums and punctums (as Barthes use these words) are general qualities that you will find in/with every photographs? Or are they, on the contrary, qualities that goes only with certain photographs.

Or maybe the terms should be understood in different ways all together?

On Images

Roland Barthes: “I see photographs everywhere, like everyone else, nowadays; they come from the world to me, without my asking; that are only “images,” their mode of appearance is heterogeneous.” (16)

And then Barthes continues:”Yet, among those which has seen selected, evaluated, approved, collected in albums or magazines and which had thereby passed through the filter of culture, I realized that some provoked tiny jubilations … and that others, on the contrary, were so indifferent to me that by dint of seeing them multiply, like some weed, I felt a kind of aversion towards them, even of irritation.” (16)

There is, it seems, a distinction between photographs that invoke tiny jubilations and those that are indifferent to Barthes or even invoke irritation.

Barthes says: “I decided then to take as a guide for my new analysis the attraction I felt for certain photographs.” (18)

In this task Barthes borrows “something from phenomenology’s project and something from it language.” (20). I will, however, leave that discussion to another time.

Related to the photograph above, at this level of discussion, it will be a question if it evokes a tiny jubilation, or simply is an indifferent image. That is for you, the observer, to decide.

On Studium

Barthes then enters into an analysis of couple of photographs from the Dutch photographer Koen Wessing:

“What I feel about these photographs derives from an average affect, almost from a certain training. I did not know a French word which might account for this kind of human interest, but I believe this word exists in Latin: it is studium, which does not mean, at least not immediately, “study”, but application to a thing, taste for someone, a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, of course, but without special acuity. (26)

And: “It is by studium that I am interested in so many photographs, whether I receive them as political testimony or enjoy them as good historical scenes: for it is culturally (this connotation is present in studium) that I participate in the figures, the faces, the gestures, the setting, the actions.” (26)

Related to the photograph above studium would be issues to the where, the when and the what of the photograph. Among many other things that culturally do, and could, relate to it.

On Punctum

That much for studium. Now, what does Barthes has to say about punctum? Its comes here:

“The second element will break (or punctuate) the studium. This time is it not I who seek it out (as I invest the field of the studium with my sovereign consciousness),  it is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out f it like an arrow, and pierces me. A Latin word exist to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suits me all the better in that is also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely these marks are so many points.” (26-27)

Further: “This second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also the cast of the dice. A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me). (26-27)

And he continues: “Many photographs are, alas, inert under my gaze. But even among those which have some existence in my eyes, most provoke only a general and, so to speak,polite interest: they have no punctum in them: they please or displease me without pricking me: they are invested with no more than studium.The studium is that very wide field of unconcerned desire, of various interest, of inconsequential taste: I like / I don’t like”. (27)

Related to the photograph above punctum could be almost anything. Punctum is a capacity that hits you, and not anything that could be read out of the image as part of the studium. Normally it would be a detail that speaks to you. And it would be very individual what/who is speaking and what is said.

Conclusions

I am not going to take this note any further.

I was interested in seeing if studium and punctum, by Barthes, were initiated as concepts of general qualities inherent in all photographs. It seems that they were not. They arespecial qualities that come with certain pictures and certain attitudes.

And what is more: Images that qualify as objects worthy of studium, will not necessarily “contain” punctums. Barthes is very clear about that.

There also seems to be images that fall completely outside the studium area: those “merely images” that the author simply is indifferent to. However, this does not mean that these images are without interest for everybody. Barthes may be indifferent to images that might have quite a different status for others. Even if Barthes would not have invested in those images, others might. This is a very important point.

We have, however, to be a bit cautious when reading Camera Lucida. Questions have to be asked. Is Barthes, for instance, talking about qualities in a) the object, in the b) subject or in c) the subjects reading of photographs? He is, in my opinion, talking about  c) the reading of the photographs. This is quite consistent with phenomenology, or should I say intentionality. That discussion will, however, be left to another time.

Barthes’ stand on these issues could be phrased like this: Studiums are investments, punctums are gifts. Investments do not grant gifts. But they don’t exclude them either.

Some people don’t invest and they don’t get gifts. Others do/get both.

That’s all :-). Thanks.

Roland Barthes: Cameras Lucida, Vintage Books, London 2000.
Library Thing.
Don’t forget to follow the other blogs in the barebones blog universe. Here are links to the picture blogs: Berlin Black and WhitePhotos of  The Danes.
Please be aware that this post was originally posted to Phenomenology and Photography.

The Photographer´s Eye.

Photographer's Eye. Copyright 2010: Knut Skjærven

“The first thing a photographer learned was that photography dealt with the actual; he had not only to accept this fact, but to treasure it: unless he did, photography would defeat him. He learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and to recognize its best works and moments, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supply.”

John Szarkowski: The Photographer’s Eye, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 2009.